Shawl, womens, wool / silk, probably made in Europe, possibly made in India, probably 1810-1850
The shawl was probably made in Europe although it is possible that it was made in India. It dates from between about 1810 to 1850. It was made on a drawer loom. (Christina Sumner, Senior Curator, 19/5/9)
Two sides of the border are sewn face up and two sides face down. The reversed border means that when the shawl is folded diagonally and worn around the shoulders both borders would appear on the right side. These became known as 'turnover' shawls.
The boteh motif, featured in the borders of this shawl, has long been the principle image associated with the Kashmir shawl. Also known as paisley, pine cone and mango, the boteh (or 'buta' in Hindi-Urdu, meaning flower) evolved from its early depiction of a simple flowering plant during the Mughal period, to gradually taking on a more abstracted form of foliage and flowers compacted in a long oval shape. By the mid-eighteenth century, the distinctive top curved hook had started to emerge, becoming more pronounced by the middle of the nineteenth century when a very stylised, curvilinear boteh appeared, owing little obvious debt to its original, representational form.
This shawl was part of a collection of textiles given to Sydney College of Advanced Education (CAE) by members of staff who had travelled overseas and collected pieces they felt were appropriate to the CAE courses.
The English word "shawl" is derived from the Persian "shal", originally denoting a class of woven fabric rather than a particular article of dress. In traditional Indo-Persion usage shal could equally well apply to a scarf, a turban, a mantle or even a coverlet, the distinguishing feature being that the material was fine wool or some other kind of animal fleece.
Shawls became increasingly popular in Europe during the late 18th century when travellers, East India Company employees and civil servants began bringing them home from India. Although originally part of an Indian man's costume, in Europe shawls quickly became a sought after accessory for women. In France, Empress Josephine became an avid collector after receiving a gift of Indian shawls from Napoleon upon his return from his Egyptian campaign of 1798. Images of the Empress and other French society ladies wearing these richly coloured shawls helped popularise the fashion in France and England. Demand soon outstripped supply, despite the high prices such shawls commanded.
By the mid 1860s, the decline of the shawl's popularity had begun, although production still continued for some years. By 1885, shawls were no longer fashionable, destroyed by an over-supply of much cheaper European versions made on the newly introduced jacquard loom, and later printed shawls.
[see 'From Kashmir to Paisley: the shawl trade and the hundred year fashion' by Christina Sumner in "The Australian Antique Collection" , Jan-June 1993 and "The Kashmir Shawl" by John Irwin, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973]